Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nice: beyond nice!

Ready for the next installment of my Euro files??
"YEAH!!!" (that's what you're all supposed to say while jumping up and down excitedly)

I left off when we arrived in Menton and went out to dinner for my birthday. Menton was really our "home base" and we took day trips from there. I'm tempted to stick to chronological order, but I think Menton deserves a longer post of it's own so I'm going to skip a day here and go back to Nice. After spending the first day in Menton settling in, it was time to go meet one of my bff's, or as we dubbed it- "bfff" for best friends in france because we are really clever like that. She came to spend a week with us and her flight was landing in Nice so we took the opportunity to take a day trip to Nice to meet her and tour this popular French Riviera destination.

She met us at the train station around 1 and had not eaten yet so we took her to a Brioche Doree nearby. This chain is all over Europe and it's really good (isn't all European food!) It's mostly just sandwiches or quiches, lovely baguettes and desserts, and they have really good meal deals that include coffee. Bread + caffeine = love.

Our first stop was the waterfront to admire how shockingly blue the water is. This is due to the beaches being mostly rocks all along the Mediterranean. I really like this, it means no sand clinging to you and all of your stuff, and it also means adding several pounds of pretty rocks to your backpack for the trip home for your rock collection. At the end of the waterfront you reach the cliff where the old village is located.

We climbed (in the elevator for 1 euro) to the top for more views such as this one of the port. At the top there's a nice park with a playground, the usual hotel, restaurant, touristy things. There was also an archeological site that people were excavating so we got to watch. This was cool because I have several good friends that are geologists who would have loved to see that. On the hike down there's also a man-made waterfall, so we took some quick pictures but we were ready for more important things.

GELATO!!!!!! This is the greatest place ever and I wish I could spend several weeks in Nice so that I could try every single flavor. This place is in all the guidebooks so you're sure to find it. It's called Fenocchio and is well knows for not only tasting amazing, but also tasting amazing in 98 different flavors. My choices this trip included a dark chocolate sorbet and fig sorbet- super combo!
After that we were ready to catch the train back to Menton, but not before taking a quick look into H&M because Houston is not fashionable enough to have one here.

That's all for Nice for now. There are definitely many more tourist spots and museums that I'd recommend seeing if it's your first time, but we were just there half a day so we took it easy.

Til next time!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back to our regularly scheduled program

Hello lovely friends!
I'm feeling a better after letting all of that off my chest. This week has been pretty boring but there has been some work and I make sure to keep busy, even if it means making things up for myself to do. Several weeks ago I cleaned out/ reorganized my apartment so I'm finishing that up this week and have added new paintings and gotten some essentials I've been putting off. All this in time for a little dinner party I'll be hosting tomorrow for some of my favorite people. I have a lot of teachers in the family who all went back to work this week and are stressed out, and I like to help out in the best way I know how: vegan Mac and "cheese"!! I'm so excited!
I have also set a goal for myself to do yoga every day because I notice such a huge difference in how I feel when I practice regularly. I decided this after a class on Saturday because even getting in 20 minutes of stretching a day makes me feel amazing. So I know this will be good for me and it gives me something to work toward. I think I'll start with ....30 days? I think that seems reasonable.

Now- back to France!
From Barcelona we made our way through the French Riviera. We took a 3 hour train to Perpignon where we spent a few hours walking around. We were able to leave our bags at the station, and though this costs some Euros, it's worth not lugging it around. Perpignon is a small town but has a nice commercial center with all the major shops, tons of bakeries, creperies, and gelato places. One thing to keep in mind when traveling in both Spain and France, however, is that everything closes between 2 and 5 pm for their lunch and resting time. Those French do know how to live well!

These bike stations are all over Europe now from what I've seen. They're all over the city so that you can pick one up when you need to go somewhere and drop it off at another location. And they only pay something ridiculous like 20 Euros a year. How awesome and eco-friendly!

Mid-afternoon, we took another train to Montpellier. We spent one night here so the first thing we did was take the train to our hotel. The train is this cute above ground system painted with all kinds of funky designs. Then we headed out to explore. There are some nice pedestrian areas with restaurants, a large park by the river, lots of monuments and one of those old stone dams on the river. And the best part was that we happened to get there on the first day of their summer festival! They had a huge open market, street vendors, free giveaways and performers!

Those were little kids at the top! My guess would be the youngest were about 5 or 6.

Here's the big bridge.

The next morning we took a train to Nimes and planned to spend a few hours there but couldn't find anywhere to drop off our luggage. But we made the best of it and quickly ran to the Colosseum and took pictures before hopping on the next train.

We arrived in Avignon soon after. It's a little bit larger of a city, and absolutely beautiful. All of the old architecture is still intact, I love how Europeans preserve their history. I think that's so important, and here in the US we tend to like bigger and newer. Shiny metal replaces brick and cobblestone.

Our first stop was the Pope's Palace. Inside is the Papal History Museum, which is what the name implies, the ENTIRE history. The place is huge and you can see everything from the lavish banquet rooms, to the kitchen and servants quarters. There's also an audio tour included that goes into detail about every last corner of the palace and every single pope. Give yourself at least 2 hours (more if you plan to listen to every audio chapter). I don't want to offend anyone, but the excesses of the old Catholic church are astounding. The history is really interesting.

The famous Pont d'Avignon! Did anyone else sing that song when they were little? I sang it in Spanish but of course the original is French. The tune brought back fond memories. There is also an audio tour for the bridge that explains how it was knocked over so many times that they didn't bother to rebuild it all the way across anymore. From there we climbed up above the Pope's Palace to some gardens for some really nice views and a very much needed cup of coffee!

We spent the night in Avignon and the next day happened to be my Birthday! It's not so exciting anymore because I feel old. Oh well, we still had my birthday morning celebration there before heading to Menton that evening for a birthday pizza dinner :)
We spent the rest of our vacation based in Menton, but more on that next time.

This concludes another jumbo post. I at least hope the pictures held your attention throughout. Hope you enjoyed them!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Any job openings for professional procrastinator?

Yes, this is what I am, and lately I've taken it to an extreme. While it's sometimes just me being lazy, as per why I haven't moved on to the next destination on this blog....
I kind of want to touch on the bigger picture today and put off the French Riviera a little longer because my brain has been set to repeat for the longest time and I can't stop it. I think about this in my sleep, I wake up thinking about it, and I spend my days searching for ways to change it.

I've basically put my life on hold since I graduated in December. Some reasons for this I'm aware of and others I haven't figured out, but I don't know what to do about any of them.
I think a lot of it is fear, a large part indecisiveness. I know that even though I don't have a clear idea of what will make me happy, for right now it's becoming critical that I simply DO anything (and on top of all the pressure I put on myself, my parents seem to get more and more impatient with me each day), but then I just can't follow through on anything. I feel restless and unsettled all the time due to this stagnation, and then really afraid of what will happen once I decide on or manage to plan a direction for myself. Where to go? What to do? What will I miss by choosing one thing over another? Can I have it all???

Then there's fear of not succeeding. I was already rejected from the two things I had become seriously invested in, not to mention countless job applications. But I can't fail if I haven't really tried, so instead I try everything halfway. I've investigated a lot of opportunities but I'm stuck about what I'd really like and how to do it.

So this post was really just to vent a little, I'm still stuck, but I do want to post the options I'm investigating thus far, and think that maybe by revealing something a little more personal about myself on here and making my goals more public I'll feel even MORE pressured to do something.

First, I need to go to Argentina at some point. I don't know how long I'll go for or what I'll do there, but that will happen and hopefully sometime this fall. I've looked at the English school there. I know they have courses for English professors, particularly a 3 part seminar in November that I could do. However, it would be nice to find a job with them. If not I can take the seminar, and find some other fun classes to take while I'm there and simply make it a shorter trip. Due to some personal circumstances, a shorter trip might be better anyways, even though experience wise, longer is better. And I do have family and friends to stay with and who can keep me occupied anyways, not to mention a free place to stay!

Today I emailed a Portuguese school in Maceio, Brazil. I don't think I could afford their courses, and would like to do something longer than 2 weeks of classes anyways, but I asked about job opportunities teaching English that I know they've offered in the past.

This week I will get some interpreting practice and record myself interpreting some cassette tapes of old interviews I have so that I can start getting higher paying jobs. And now that it's written down I HAVE to do this!

I need to do some more serious investigation into volunteering in Israel. I know the programs themselves are free, but obviously other costs are involved, and I need to start preparing myself financially and otherwise if I do choose to go live in Israel for 5-10 months (depending on the program).

I will go to a few networking events for the family business, and search for potential clients online, since I live on the computer anyways.

I will not neglect my friends just because I feel defeated and want to stay curled up on the couch forever (yes guys, this is the reason, I haven't stopped loving you!)

I will stay or go back to being more politically active because I know this really does make me happy. I will start this by going to the Mayoral Forum tonight to hear all the Houston candidates speak.

I'll finish organizing my apartment because I like being neat and clean :)

This emotional spillage was brought to you by a quote on another blog I happened upon this morning:

“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!

-Alice, Alice in Wonderland

Now I'm off to start being productive!